Archive for the ‘Initiative: Thought Leadership’ Category

The Leadership Test

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

I recently read a new book titled The Leadership Test, by Timothy R. Clark, Ph.D. A book on leadership may, on its face, not sound very interesting. After all, as Dr. Clark cites in his book, there are literally thousands of books written on the topic of leadership. In fact so many that, “assume[ing] the average width of a book spine is one inch, the stack of books on leadership would be over 30,000 feet high.”  That vivid illustration begs an interesting question however… “Why?” Why so many books and so much thought given to one single subject? And what could a book that, by my measure, is only about a quarter of an inch thick, add to an already crowded space?

Leadership in the non-profit space is, as in the for-profit world, a valuable commodity. The reason we talk so much about it is because we value it so highly, and all too frequently, suffer from its absence. As the author puts it, “Everyone is trying to figure it out. Everybody is looking for the secret.” He then offers a definition that was of particular interest to me as one who relies on people willing to act and, at times, make sacrifices. “Leadership is the process of influencing volunteers to accomplish good things.” If you are not necessarily focused on charity work and the word “volunteer” just reduced your interest in this, stay with me for a moment.

Whether we lead a corporation, small business, charity, classroom or family, we depend upon, in the best scenario, volunteers. Even if you pay employees, there are only three reasons they follow you: they are manipulated, you have effectively persuaded them, or they are coerced. If you view the actions of those who look to you for leadership on this continuum, you can draw a very important lesson on leadership. If your employees, teammates or children, are effectively persuaded, they are now…volunteers. And a volunteer will go to extraordinary lengths to serve the vision of the leader. I find this profoundly simple concept to be of great value.

One more point before I risk spoiling the book: if this manner of leadership is so effective, then why is it so hard to come by? The answer offered, and again in a magnificently simple way… “Leadership puts pressure on the relationship between stewardship and self interest.”  In my chosen field of philanthropic work, I am privileged to work with some of the best hearts…and minds. Self-interest, while it may exist, rarely plays a distracting role in charitable work. But it can, and when it does the process changes. It becomes even more apparent at times outside the charity realm where self-interest has, in the opinion of some, nearly wrecked our economy.

I find this a timely “read” and recommend it as among the very first things you read for 2010 (or the last thing you read in 2009!). It just may cause you to think less of your interests, more of those of others, and in the bargain, you will get more of what you wanted anyway!

-Rick B. Larsen

The OK List of America's Best

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

As we congratulate Bill and Kathy Magee and Senator Orrin Hatch on their well-deserved recognition in November’s U.S. News & World Report, we are mindful of other great leaders with whom we have had the privilege of working during the past year. With that, I’d like to contribute an “Operation Kids: America’s Best Leaders in 2009″ by highlighting additional leaders who have made an enormous impact in their communities and, due to their commitment and influence, the world.

Anthony Kennedy Shriver: In 1989 Anthony created a mentoring program on his college campus. That project turned into a life’s work. Today, through his stewardship and entrepreneurial spirit, Best Buddies® has grown into a leading nonprofit entity with increasingly international reach across six continents. It has established a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They positively impact more than 400,000 participants every year.  The organization is active in each of the 50 United States, and operates accredited international programs in 44 countries.

Drew Brees:   When Drew left the San Diego Chargers and signed with the New Orleans Saints in 2006, he and his wife Brittany took a higher view of the situation. They believed that they were directed to New Orleans for a reason, and committed to become part of the community. They immediately sought way to help rebuild post-Katrina. Today, Drew and Brittany have rebuilt nearly a dozen successful projects including athletic facilities, day care centers and critical education programs. Their adopted city of New Orleans have hailed them as true “Saints” in the city.

Steve Young: With an NFL Hall of Fame career behind him, Steve maintains a broadcast career, participates in a private equity firm, and continues to provide leadership of the Forever Young Foundation. Forever Young Foundation is a non-profit organization that serves children facing significant physical, emotional, and financial challenges. They focus on efforts to provide academic, athletic, and therapeutic opportunities to at-risk youth. They have expanded beyond their historical focus on Northern California, Arizona and Utah, to include development projects like the Forever Young Zones, Youth Education Town Centers (YET Centers) in each Super Bowl city and now, international initiatives including the building and expansion of schools in Ghana, Africa.

John A. (Jack) Calhoun: In his “retirement,” Jack manages the 13-California City Gang Prevention Network for the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education and Families. In 2007 and has published a book, Hope Matters: The Untold Story of How Faith Works in America. He has spent a lifetime attempting to improve the lot of children and families and the communities in which they live. President Carter appointed Jack to the nation’s top children’s job, Commissioner of the Administration for Children, Youth and Families, where he oversaw such programs as Head Start, Child Welfare, The Center to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect, the Office of Domestic Violence and the Office for Families. For 20 years he served at the National Crime Prevention Council as its President and CEO. He also has served as Vice President of the Child Welfare League of America, was the Massachusetts Commissioner of the Department of Youth Services, and chair of both the Adolescent and the State of the Family Task Forces.

We give our deepest gratitude and respect to these great Americans who have truly made an enormous impact on their communities and the world around them.